Maybe a short story doesn’t have to blow your mind. Maybe there’s a short story in my head (which is filled with plenty of interesting facts, things, ideas) which would only use like, one, or two things.
Jack was a cartographer. He loved a woman named Erne, who was married. The love of a courtesan. Oops, I meant courtly love. Unrequited.
But the way I like to write is with the dizzying images of Isabel Allende, who I heard on the radio the other day. She was telling Diane Rehm about her mother who lives in Chile, which still feels the residual effects of the last earthquake. I thought that must contribute to Allende’s prose. Up so floating. How could it not?
Anyway. Then there are short stories by people like Raymond Carver, who Naumoff loathes because, he says, he’s overrated. This is also true. But Carver’s stories seem to use only one little thing. Nothing ever really happens in his stories. A fish is caught, a father is cruel. Nothing happens. When I tried to write a story like that, all that happened was nothing. At least Carver leaves you hurting, or happy (rarely).
Another thing you can’t do when you’re not famous is write essays. I just read one by Daniel Wallace in this magazine called Oxford American, which Ashley brought home for me. I love Daniel Wallace, but frankly, the only reason this essay is interesting is because he wrote it. If it was by Doug Wall-eye, no one would care. One exception—you can also write essays if you’ve got a fantastic sense of humor and you’re from Raleigh and you’re gay.
This must be why I’m regressing to poetry. Or else inchoate short stories. Here’s one I started a little while ago. It’s just plain weird. It goes nowhere.
Everyman was right. This was no place for dogs. A cat, yes, but that depended on your view of domiciliary arrangements. Everyman believed in allowing cats indoors, as much as they wished. He liked the egotism of a cat, and he liked to serve. Which was one of the reasons he and Katherine enjoyed each other’s company, to the point of being engaged.
Katherine’s main problem in life was her inability to say no. Everyman’s biggest fear was that everyone took him allegorically. It was obviously his parents’ fault, not his. He worked at a nonprofit called IntraHealth, which researched AiDS and HIV in thirdworld countries. Hardly allegorical, but the people who teased him most about it were themselves fairly well-read. Which meant they could wring an allegory out of a damp sock.
…. And then it digresses… to idiocy. Looking at this, I’ve decided I am an autist. Like an artist and an autistic. I just made that up. That’s something, hey?
(This is how that poor document in Microsoft continued.)
Belles-lettres are what I do best.
Pelican rainbow. A hey, ho, the wind and the rain. Rosebud’s blooming outside the window. I’d like to write a short story but I don’t have a plot. Should I stick to poetry?
I am exhausted by the ideal. After all, what am I? Unemployed young mother. The games are stacked high and Annie’s learned to crawl. She slides along the wood floor like Rumi might have been talking about when he said two steps forward, one back. She’s wreaking destruction and doesn’t take kindly to censure. I’m tired of the ideal. What should I be doing? I ought to be writing at least. Who was it said that each man has a profession and he will not be fully realized until he achieves it? I think he was right.
Microsoft is full of this stuff. Documents that I open and type on, then don’t post online because they’re not coherent. Well look. It’s my blog, I’m going to start putting up what I like. At least Briana likes it. For example, the one I’m typing on now has this cacophony of bits I’ve typed over the past month or whatnot. It continues:
I heard on the radio that orange, as in the color, as in beta –carotine, isn’t popular in third-world countries. I wonder why? What is it about orange? The color of yams and sweet potatoes, the color of palm oil and carrots. The color of oranges and papyas and mangoes. (Papaya is also called pawpaw.) Annie eats only sweet potatoes, pureed and mashed and processed. I think she’s going to turn orange soon. My orange baby.
And next for a little bathos. Is that the right word? I use it a lot so I ought to find out. I use it like pathos, but a bath of self-pity. Bathos. I’m going to look it up right now.
Oh man. This is funny. It sort of means the above, but look what else.
1. a. An abrupt, unintended transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect.
I told you I was in a little box, cooped up
–Like a genie, you interrupted, snatching at my waist
My friends are fewer and fewer. Everyone has a big girl job.
Everyone but me. I have a baby.
More nonsense follows.
Sugar, spit-shine your black shoes with the buckle
We’re going out on the town.
I’ve been writing bad poetry and my ears hurt
Remember growing pains? Your legs were pins and aches and you couldn’t ever fall asleep.
That’s something grownups forget about. I had a baby when I was a baby, at twenty-three,
But even at 23, growing pains are gone, metamorphosed into something more sinister, pins and needles in every dark fissure of your mind,
The way in children’s dreams everyone is very symbolic: a latex dog snout on a face, a bone for a maw. I’d take those nightmares back any day. I’ve stopped recording mine because to write them down, by simply putting pencil to paper and writing, [I’m sorry but I have to blank this out, it’s too horrifying to put online] I feel as though I’ve brought it one iota closer to reality, one iota closer to hell.
And lastly, this very short poem which may only be funny to me, because I’m becoming one:
Asymmetry is frightening.
If this was coherent and I was famous, it’d be an essay and someone would give me money for it. I’ve cheered myself up just thinking about it.